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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

U.S. Criticizes Minsk



MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Steven Pifer criticized Belarus on Monday for isolating itself and said Minsk must choose which side it is on in the war against terror.

In a video linkup from Washington, Pifer -- who in February expressed concern about reports that Belarus has sold weapons to terrorist states or groups and provided them military training -- said the country had done nothing to make its arms sales more transparent.

"In the past we have seen specific contacts by the Belarussian government with Iraq," Pifer said. "After Sept. 11 of last year … all countries have to choose what side they take in the war on terrorism."




Belarus Press Freedom



MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- The Belarussian government systematically violates press freedom and forces journalists to work in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, said a New York-based media rights group.

In an open letter to President Alexander Lukashenko, dated Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists accused the leader of an "unyielding assault on the independent press."

It called on Lukashenko to "tolerate public scrutiny" and permit journalists to "fulfill their role of independently reporting the news."

The Committee to Protect Journalists also accused the Belarussian government of using complicated and arbitrary registration procedures for new publications "to muzzle outlets that criticize and question state policies."




Danilov Probe Ends



MOSCOW (AP) -- Prosecutors have completed an additional investigation into the case of Valentin Danilov, a physicist jailed on charges of spying for China, preparing the way for his second trial, which could begin next month, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Danilov has been in jail in Krasnoyarsk since February 2001 on charges of selling state secrets to a Chinese company and of misappropriating money. Danilov says the information he provided was no longer classified.

Danilov's trial was adjourned earlier this year when the court sent the case back to prosecutors for further investigation.

On Friday, prosecutors wrapped up the second investigation and gave all the materials to the defense to read by Aug. 27, said lawyer Yelena Yevmenova. She said a new trial could begin shortly after that, in early September.

Yevmenova said only minor details of the charges had changed.




Vietnamese Vendors



MOSCOW (MT) -- City police clashed Tuesday with Vietnamese vendors at a market in northern Moscow as the officers attempted to confiscate what they said were knockoffs of popular fashion brands such as Adidas and Hugo Boss, Interfax reported.

The incident at the Salyut-3 market was the second time in a week that police, assisted by OMON troops and officers from the economic crimes unit, have raided the market. As of Tuesday evening, about 200 vendors blocked the entrance to the market to keep the police from confiscating their wares, Interfax said. Representatives of the Vietnamese Embassy were also on hand.




Kaliningrad Progress



MOSCOW (MT) -- Russia's presidential envoy in charge of Kaliningrad softened his stance Tuesday on a Lithuanian proposal to introduce magnetized travel cards for residents of the exclave, but criticized the measure for failing to guarantee freedom of movement to all Russian citizens, Interfax reported.

"Magnetized cards can be a surrogate for visas … on a regional level," State Duma Deputy Dmitry Rogozin said, adding that such a technical solution to the visa spat between Russia and the European Union "can be discussed." But the cards are still visas, "only from a different angle," Rogozin told reporters in the Kaliningrad region's port city of Baltiisk.

A day earlier, Rogozin met with officials in Lithuania, which, along with Poland, is tightening visa regulations ahead of its expected accession to the EU. The talks covered travel rules, as well as transit of Russian military cargo and personnel via the Baltic republic.




New Age Turkmenistan



ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan (AP) -- Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov issued a decree on Tuesday that extends adolescence until age 25 and postpones old age until 85, well beyond the life-span of the average Turkmen man.

Niyazov's edict, published in the Neutral Turkmenistan national newspaper, divides life into 12-year cycles.

According to the edict, childhood lasts until age 12, followed by adolescence until age 25. Turkmen aged between 25 and 37 are considered youthful, while those aged between 37 and 49 years are mature.

Niyazov, who turned 62 this year, is in his inspirational period, according to the edict. Old age begins at age 85.

According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy at birth for Turkmen men is 60, while for women it is 65.




For the Record



U.S. President George W. Bush will meet Estonian Prime Minister Siim Kallas on Sept. 4 at the White House in Washington, deputy White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Monday. "The visit provides an opportunity for the president to recognize the great progress that Estonia has made over the last decade in implementing a free market, democratic transformation," McClellan said. (Reuters)

Two people died from gas poisoning at a closed coal mine in eastern Ukraine and fires broke out at two other mines, officials said Tuesday, adding to mounting concern about Ukraine's troubled mining industry. The latest victims were performing "unauthorized work" on an aboveground pump at the shuttered Shaktarkskantrasit mine in Ukraine's coal-mining region of Donetsk when they inhaled poisonous gas, officials said. (AP)

The head of the commission investigating the crash of a Ukrainian fighter jet said Tuesday that flight commanders shared blame for not giving pilots adequate instructions for risky maneuvers that led to the deaths of 85 spectators in the June 27 air show accident. (AP)